Nelson Mandela doing well after laparoscopy

Johannesburg: South Africa`s much-loved leader Nelson Mandela underwent a diagnostic surgery but is "fine and fully conscious" and might very well go home tomorrow, officials said today allaying concerns over the 93-year-old anti-apartheid icon`s health.

The former president`s health has witnessed a decline in recent years, and any development on this front is keenly followed in the country and across the world.

Mandela was on Saturday admitted to a hospital where he underwent a laparoscopy for a longstanding abdomen related ailment. Informing about the procedure that involves inserting a tiny camera through the abdomen to perform an internal examination, Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said the elderly statesman was "as fine as can be at his age".

Sisulu denied reports that Mandela had been operated for hernia but said he had been suffering from "ongoing discomfort" on a regular basis. "The only way that we could finally get to the bottom of this is by taking him to hospital and having a number of tests to find out if in fact what was prescribed, what we were giving him, was working and if we could not make it any better," Sisulu, whose ministry is responsible for Mandela`s health, told reporters.

Mandela is likely to be discharged and sent home by tomorrow. "He`s as fine as can be at his age – and handsome. If we had it our way, he would be home by now," she said.

Mac Maharaj, spokesman for President Jacob Zuma said in a statement, that Madiba, as Mandela is fondly referred to, is "fine and fully conscious".

Last year in January, Mandela was admitted to hospital for a serious chest infection, and his admittance sparked lot of rumours and speculation. This time, the officials have stepped in to make sure there is no panic.

"The doctors are satisfied with his condition, which they say is consistent with his age. He was in good health before admission to hospital, but doctors felt the complaint needed a thorough investigation," Maharaj said.

African National Congress spokesman Keith Khosa called on the media and the public to avoid speculation after an earlier report by the BBC indicated that Mandela had undergone surgery for a hernia on Friday night.

Although there was no official word on where he was being treated, speculation was rife that he is at the Milpark Hospital here, with local and international media converging outside the venue.

Unlike last year when there was intense speculation over Mandela`s health, there was no steady stream of family, political leaders and well-wishers, although extra police has been deployed at his home in the elite suburb of Houghton here as curious onlookers arrived in larger than usual numbers.

Leaders across the political spectrum sent well wishes to Mandela as messages of goodwill poured in from across the globe as well.

At the Mandela residence in Houghton, a group of visitors from India on a tourist bus also expressed their good wishes for his speedy recovery. "He has the same stature as Mahatma Gandhi and has lived to be older than him. We hope he lives to be more than a hundred," educationist Virendra Pandya from Gujarat state said on behalf of the group.

Media had also gathered outside the One Military Hospital in Pretoria, where senior statesmen are usually attended to by the Surgeon-General. Some who got too close were asked to leave and one journalist was detained briefly until she deleted photographs which she took of the venue.

Government has indicated that any statements on Mandela`s health would only be made by the Surgeon-General.

Mandela, who led South Africa`s anti-apartheid movement, spent 27 years in prison till 1990, and became South Africa`s first black president in 1994, leading to a peaceful transition after years of white minority rule. He stepped down after one term and retired from public life eight years ago.